8 Principles of Charismatic Leadership

Today is all we have. Let us begin.


Trevor Huffman

3 years ago | 7 min read

We cannot build a different world with indifferent people. You cannot win today’s game with yesterday’s home run. Tomorrow is gone. Yesterday has not yet come. Today is all we have. Let us begin.

1. Wanting isn’t enough

Real life experience in wanting something helps more than theoretically wanting something. I learned, as a first-time pro head basketball coach, that people not only follow charismatic leaders, they allow themselves to be pushed by charismatic leaders. Athletes (like most humans) are lazy. They cut corners when they can. Most athletes need to be pushed to be more of what they can be. Most people are looking for someone that can make (or help) them do what they are truly capable of doing.

The gap between potential and realization isn’t as big as you think. It’s today’s 50 little corners and zigs and zags and habits you cut or create that deflect or create high level performance day after day.

And listen, a charismatic leader does the work in many respects, but even then, without experience, without real passion and grit and vision, quality repetitions, you won’t grow into a charismatic leader. It takes more than wanting. It takes knowing how you are smart — not how smart you are. It’s incessantly making the small efforts and jumps through hoops.

Yesterday’s home run won’t help you in winning today’s business.

So let it go and start doing what a charismatic leader does…

2. Charismatic leadership requires you to know your craft better than 95% of the world

I was a pro basketball player for 12 years, I know the struggle of workouts, of film sessions, of aerobic capacity, of anaerobic thresholds, of skill workouts, and mostly, I know being a leader and head coach means understanding every nuance of the game better than everyone else.

Want to know who the leader is? Ask him to decide. | Data Driven Investor

One of the most valuable things an effective leader can offer an organization is the ability to make decisions…

This is charismatic leadership — having an obsession with learning and teaching your craft because you have skin in the game.

Knowing every shift of body language, executing every drill and play and film session with an acute obsession. It is caring more than the players, the janitor, the president, the assistants, the shareholders, and the fans. It’s holding players and employees accountable while holding yourself accountable. It’s tapering. It’s pushing employees to do more.

In the book, Leadershift with John Maxwell, he writes, “They follow us because we have done the hard work to create a life of integrity, in which we embody the virtues we all aspire to embrace. We become radiant exemplars.”

Wanting isn’t enough. Charismatic leadership requires a quasi-like transcendental obsession.

3. Charismatic leadership requires better stress management

I read notes on the book, Leadershift with John Maxwell and I didn’t realize how much stress a leadership a head coaching position unloads on you. I didn’t see all the stress — like a fresh water fish breathing salt water — I didn’t see the difference. The weight of responsibility. And I learned, it’s not the job that kills you, it’s the stress.

4. Charismatic leaders can imagine life being the exact opposite

If things are going great, imagine what you’d being doing if it were the exact opposite. I do this often.

Tomorrow, if I’m a goner, or I lose my job, I’d call my parents, my friends, my brothers, and my nieces as much as possible. I’d connect to loved ones. I’d ask about their lives. I’d be unselfish more with strangers. Id be grateful for this moment. I’d live and breathe deeper. Say “I love you,” more.

But you can do this “Stoic inversion practice” with business, sports, relationships, or basically anything:

Just imagine if tomorrow your current life, would be gone. What would do you differently? How would you act? Who would you call? Have dinner with? Connect with?

Fighting human nature isn’t easy. When we are losing, we are fighting downwards momentum. When we are winning, we are fighting upwards momentum. For example, I won 15 games in a row (to start the season) and part of me thought, “Man, this pro head coaching gig is easy.”

But I quickly learned the world of pro sports, or business, or anything will show you the ass-kicking door quickly.

5. Charismatic leaders can answer these Leadershift questions from John Maxwell:

  1. How can I demand more from players (employees) without ruining relationships?
  2. How can I demand more without feeling the guilt of hurting another human’s feelings? Is this normal in the early stages of leadership?
  3. How can I create conflict or possibly conflict without carrying conflict internally?
  4. How do you create meaningful teams and cultures?
  5. How do you get the most out of players, employees, or team members?
The truth is this: every advance you make as a leader will require a leadershift that changes the way you think, act, and lead. If you want to be an effective leader, you must leadershift. You cannot be the same, think the same, and act the same if you hope to be successful in a world that does not remain the same.” — John Maxwell

“If you want to be a successful leader, you need to learn to become comfortable with uncertainty and make shifts continually. You need to be flexible and deal with uncertainty without losing focus. Leaders who leadershift must be like water.” — J.M.

6. Charismatic leadership happens in waves of learning

Of being consistent. Of talking the talk and walking the walk. I’m learning now from our new head coach what moral authority means. He lives what he speaks. Going the extra mile in practice isn’t taken lightly because he goes the extra mile in his approach to developing every player, every practice, every workout, every drill, every fitness concept, every heart rate monitor, every lift, every skill development workout… everything you can cover, he lives and breathes it all, from the youth to the pros.

I’ve been cut from the NBA. I’ve failed hundreds of times. But to leave a coaching position didn’t make sense when I felt like I was just beginning to make the shift to understanding what head coaching took to be successful. I wanted to learn. I wanted to grow. This is leadership to me. I won’t stop learning because a label changes.

Be the water.

Andy Reid took 21 years to win an NFL championship. John Wooden took 15 years to win NCAA championships. Pete Carroll was fired a few times before the Seahawks took him.

“Change or die.” — Thomas Edgley

Change is water. Be fluid. Swim and flow and change. This is what true leadership is to me. Growth is leadership. Going from goal mindset to a growth mindset and back to a goal mindset is leadership. Charismatic leadership is about growth over goals, about relationships over hierarchies. About going from a soloist to a conductor. The focus of charismatic leadership is learning how to help others build the ladders they created with you.

7. What is Charismatic Leadershift?

Leadershift is the ability and willingness to make a leadership change that will positively enhance organizational and personal growth.

How do we create ability?

By doing whatever it takes to create ability.

What it takes is doing whatever it takes.

In basketball, whatever it takes is whatever it takes. This changes as you age, as you grow, as you learn, as you diminish, as you decay, but remember, personal growth only happens through consistency, constant learning and making our main objective daily growth.

8. Charismatic leaders live within the concept of Albert Einstein’s Eighth Wonder of the World — compounding interest.

Charismatic leadership is living the craft of building, tempering, pushing, growing, cultivating, and planting seeds of greatness within your employees (or players) day after day.

Begin the art of compounding interest in building awareness, practicing skills, and paying the price for whatever it takes to be successful.

Cal Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive MBL baseball games. This will go down in history as one of the crowning achievements in Major League Baseball.


Because he paid the price of consistency with daily actions. He did whatever it took. Imagine if you played your life like Cal Ripken — like you worked out, or grew, or learned, or showed up to your passion, or your startup, or your dream, or your cause, or your partner every day.

What and who would you become? How great would you be?

This is the magic of compounding interest in personal growth. If you approach charismatic leadership, and the athletic edge in this fashion, you will be unstoppable. You will be unbeatable because you are living in the highest moral authority. You are walking the talk. You are leading the way. People won’t help but be inspired by your actions. Your deeds. Your virtues.

“Once you decide, (to take the path of greatness) you take action. When you decide to be successful in a big way, it means you acknowledge the price and you’re willing to pay it.” — Scott Adams

Moral authority is the recognition of a person’s leadership influence based on who they are more than the position they hold. Charismatic leaders lead by example. They lead by wanting it more. By learning it more. By compounding their efforts day after day. By not cutting corners, and taking short cuts understanding it’s not how smart you are, but rather how you are smart.

The truth is, you and your employees can always do better. I can always learn more. I need to strive to do better and live in moral authority with myself. It’s only then that others can grant me moral authority to imprint their lives in a meaningful, charismatic way.

This article was originally published by Trevor huffman on medium.


Created by

Trevor Huffman







Related Articles